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In February, John and I were fortunate enough to take a trip to Thailand. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to share with you our wonderful travels in Thailand, with a food perspective of course.
Railay Beach was our first destination. Located in southern Thailand on the Andaman Sea, Railay Beach boasts beautiful turquoise water and impressive multi-coloured limestone cliffs. Railay also happens to be a world renowned destination for rock-climbing, the sport that has been John’s passion for the last two decades.
There are four main beaches on Railay, and the most impressive would have to be Phra Nang. Recently, this beach has been voted as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, and it is evident why. The pristine sand is surrounded by beautiful limestone cliffs, some even boasting cave-like features including stalagmites reaching towards the ground. The beach faces out toward the turquoise sea, offering a glorious view of limestone islets. John and I enjoyed spending time rock climbing on Phra Nang, bouldering on the cliffs on the beach.
Not only can you climb on the peninsula, but you can go out on the sea as well. Large spires and cliffs rising out of the water have been eroded at the bottom by the changing tide of the salty sea, thus making Railay one of the world’s few destinations for deep water soloing. Deep water soloing is where rock climbers will climb the limestone islets and fall into the ocean below the. John and I took a boat out to some of the climbing destinations, and spent a wonderful afternoon climbing the cliffs and falling into the sea below.
Oh yes, and there are monkeys on Railay too. Those of you who have visited Thailand know that they aren’t cute and friendly, but rather cheeky and ready to steal things from you. Don’t be fooled by their adorable façade – they will steal your camera and give you rabies if they have the chance.
John and I are lovers of Thai cuisine, and we were very excited for the food on our trip. Railay offers a multitude of lovely resorts right on the beach, all with restaurants that boast a beautiful atmosphere. The problem with these restaurants are that they kind of expensive by Thailand standards. After one meal at one of these sea-side resort restaurants, John and I discovered the Mangrove.
The Mangrove was inland with no view of the water, however their prices were great and their menu extensive. The restaurant itself was nothing glamorous, but the great food, the huge charcoal grill sitting outside and lower prices more than made up for it. In the end, we ate every remaining meal of our stay at the Mangrove, with no regrets. The food was so good we had no reason to go elsewhere. Red curry, green curry, Panang curry, grilled skewers, seafood, soups, pineapple fried rice – the menu went on and on!
John is a seafood lover, and was very excited to sample some of the fresh grilled seafood right out of sea. He ordered a couple of delicacies that he had never had the privilege of trying before, starting with the blue crab. John loved the blue crab. Compared to a normal crab, John delighted in the blue crab’s less fishy, less salty but sweet, savoury and light tastes and textures. The next night was the king prawns, prawns as large as smokies. I had never seen anything like them before. John was a happy guy after these meals.
The Mangrove also boasted the best Tom yam soup we tried on our trip (and of course we had the soup multiple times.) Tom yam soup is this week’s recipe!
Tom yam is a hot and sour soup flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, Thai chili peppers and shallots among other things. You can serve the soup with chicken, shrimp or even vegetarian. After the prep is done, the soup itself is pretty quick to make, as it doesn’t require a long simmering time like other soups – the method we use has the soup at a boil as you add the ingredients.
- If you can find Tamarind Chili jam, this is the way to go to have your Tom Yam make the jump from good to great. But the jam can be hard to find, so you can use regular tamarind paste if you can’t find the good stuff. Another option is to order it or make it yourself – check out this link to a recipe and a place to order your jam online. (Thanks to John for finding this great website!)
- Remember, to taste and adjust your flavours as you go. You may find that you prefer more or less chili peppers, salt, fish sauce etc. You may even find that you want to increase the lemongrass or galangal. When John and I make tom yam, every soup turns out a little different then the last.
- Select number of bird’s eye chilies according to how hot you like your soup. John and I made the “serves 4” version below, and used around 20-25 chilies for a medium heat soup.
Galangal is a frequent flyer in Thai cooking. I like to think of galangal as the Thai ginger – galangal and ginger are both roots but have distinctly different flavours. On Railay Beach, John had a Chai tea where the barista mortar and pestled all of the ingredients, including galangal instead of the typical ginger – delicious!
So if you ever find yourself on Railay beach, make sure you get yourself to the Mangrove to enjoy a bowl of their Tom Yam soup! If not, give it a try yourself!
Special thanks to John for taking such wonderful photos!
Click below to view other posts in the Thailand series:
Chiang Mai and Khao Soi
Click here to view a printable Word version of the recipe:
Tom Yam Soup
Tom Yam Soup
- 2 cups water
- 2-6 crushed bird’s eye chili peppers (use flat side of the knife, crush pepper. Crushed peppers should remain intact as you add it to the soup, keeping the seeds contained in the pepper)
- ½ cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 stalk lemongrass sliced into 1-inch long pieces – remove outer layer
- 1 inch galangal, sliced into thin medallions
- 1 small tomato, cut into wedges
- 2 shallots, crushed with flat side of knife
- 1 tbsp fish sauce or soya sauce (don’t mix). Add to taste.
- ½ tsp sugar
- ¼ – ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tbsp tamarind chili jam or tamarind paste (if you can’t find tamarind chili jam, you can make or order your own by clicking here)
- 5 shrimp or equivalent of chicken or tofu
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 chopped green onion, 1-inch pieces
- 1 spring cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 tsp lime juice
To Serve 4
- 8 – 10 cups water
- 15 – 40 crushed bird’s eye chili peppers (use flat side of the knife, crush pepper. Crushed peppers should remain intact as you add it to the soup, keeping the seeds contained in the pepper)
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 5 stalks lemongrass (4-5 inches each) sliced into 1-inch long pieces – remove outer layer before slicing
- 4 inches galangal, sliced into thin medallions
- 4 small or 2-3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 8 shallots, crushed with flat side of knife
- 4 – 6 tbsp fish sauce or soya sauce (don’t mix). Add to taste.
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1-2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 2 – 3 tbsp tamarind chili jam or tamarind paste (if you can’t find tamarind chili jam, you can make or order your own by clicking here)
- 20 shrimp or equivalent of chicken or tofu
- 12 – 15 kaffir lime leaves
- 3 chopped green onions, 1-inch pieces
- 4 springs cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 – 3 tbsp lime juice (try juice of ½ a lime)
- Make a broth. Put water in a pot. Add lemongrass, galangal, shallots, tomatoes and mushrooms. Heat until boiling.
- Once boiling, add tamarind chili paste, and bird’s eye chili peppers. Continue boiling for a few minutes.
- Flavour with fish sauce/soya sauce, salt and sugar.
- Add shrimp/chicken/tofu. Boil until meat/tofu is cooked. Shrimp will cook very fast, in less a minute. Chicken will take a minute or two, if chopped
- Stir and add green onion, cilantro and lime leaves. Turn off heat.
- Add lime juice and serve.
Please note: If you want to eat the lime leaves chop finely. To chop, de-stem, roll into a spiral and then chop into thin strips, as thin as you can. Don’t eat the lemongrass or chili peppers. Eat the galangal If you like.